The final race of the season was an epic climax to 2018, with with Dani Pedrosa winning the Grand Prix, his seventh at Valencia across all classes and his 31st in the MotoGP class.
But all eyes were on team-mate Marc Marquez and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to see which pilot would take the title.
It was Marquez who got the better start, hustling his way to the front before Tech 3’s Johann Zarco assumed the lead on lap four.
Dovizioso also made a blistering start, forcing his way through the midfield to sit behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
Marquez was happy in second – he’d win the title – and stuck behind the satellite Yamaha for 20 laps before making a pass. However, he immediately ran wide in Turn 1, the front wheel closing at full left lock. But Marquez would not be beaten and managed to balance the bike on his knee and his elbow, holding on in the hope the front would come back to him as smoke poured off the front tire. The rear finally gripped and he succeeded in flipping the bike back up again as he headed to the edge of the hard standing on the outside of Turn 1. With something resembling control, he ran off the track and through the gravel, rejoining behind the Ducatis and several seconds behind.
The Ducatis were embroiled in an internal battle of their own. To stand any chance of landing the title, Dovizioso had to get past his team-mate. Lap after lap Lorenzo refused to move over, and then the ‘Suggested Mapping 8’ appeared on his dashboard, the same message which had been shown at Sepang. This was surely the sign that Ducati were ordering Lorenzo to let Dovizioso by, but Lorenzo steadfastly refused to obey.
The same message was sent again just five laps later, and then a lap later it was clear for all to see – Lorenzo’s pit board had an instruction to drop one place, thus allowing Dovizioso through.
The messages kept coming, on both dashboard and pit board, but Lorenzo kept ignoring them, and actually started catching Pedrosa in second, dropping Dovizioso in the process as if to prove a point.
It is this stubbornness which would cost him dearly. He had caught Pedrosa and was starting to push, too hard as it turned out, and lost the front in Turn 5, crashing out.
And just three corners later the title was decided as Dovizioso failed to get his bike stopped on the way into Turn 8, ran straight on into the gravel, and tumbled over at slow speed. Dovizioso remounted his bike, and cruised back to the Ducati garage, where he retired. The title was now Marquez’s, regardless of where he finished.
At the front, the battle continued to rage, with Pedrosa dicing with Zarco for the lead. With four laps left, the Spaniard was clearly quicker than Zarco, and on the final lap he pounced. He was close enough behind Zarco to use the slipstream of the Frenchman to launch himself out of the draft along the straight and grab the inside line as he drew level with Zarco, holding him off on the brakes. The Repsol Honda rider then continued to push while riding defensive lines, and eventually crossed the line to take victory, his second of the season, and scoring enough points to secure the team championship for Repsol Honda.
It was a fitting end to a spectacular season. Roll on 2018…